Ministry is a paradox. The responsibility of spreading the gospel and helping others grow in their faith and knowledge of God is one of the most joyful parts in all of life. There are seasons of growth and apparent blessing. At times, my heart almost bursts with happiness as I watched my husband in his role as pastor. “Why has God been so good?” It’s a mystery, but I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
But that’s only some of the time.
Ministry is hard. Sometimes the Lord gives seasons of difficulty beyond comprehension. Ministry means people and people are sinners. Therefore, sinful situations will ignite and the pastor and his family sometimes get burned. At times, it’s been honestly crushing to watch my husband in his role as pastor. “Why is ministry so hard?” It’s a mystery and I’m overwhelmed with sorrow.
How can I, as a pastor’s wife, make sure my heart is faith-filled when life is perplexing or saturated with trials. The temptation to complain is ever-present and it’s a struggle that goes back many years.
What do I see?
When the Israelites’ journeyed in the wilderness, there was some serious grumbling. This was their rhythm. They were refreshed; then they became tired and hungry; then back to grumbling and complaining. It’s a familiar pattern within biblical history. It’s a familiar pattern for me too.
Complaining makes us crazy. The Israelites complained that their journey was harder than their slavery. They complained at the Red Sea that Moses brought them out to the desert to die. They grumbled for over 40 years.
If complaining were an Olympic event, OT Israel would certainly qualify for a medal.
Do you find yourself wanting something different than what God is providing right now? Maybe your local church is lacking in certain areas. Maybe your husband isn’t making as much money as you think he deserves. Perhaps you feel that your husband is spending too much time doing church ministry.
There is a healthy way to discuss these issues, both with your husband and with the Lord. But grumbling is not the best conversation starter. Remember, God is working the difficulties for good, even if He does not change the circumstance. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God is at work in your trial to bring about good. God wants to stir our faith to trust Him and live more confidently that He indeed working all things together for good!
I remember when our church went through a painful time of pruning. Several members left the church upset, several left due to job changes, and others left because they thought our church was too small. We were down to about 25 people (if you counted children and babies!) and unsure if we could even pay our bills. I was honestly anxious and discouraged.
For several months, I grumbled to my husband about the church and nagged him to take a job at a different church. To make matters worse, other churches actually began calling him to see if he was interested in a different pastorate! But he remained loyal and committed. It became a defining moment to align my speech with God’s call upon us. Looking back, it formed an important lesson.
When we trust God, we see and speak from the goodness of what He is providing. Maybe you can relate. Perhaps your circumstance is temporary and the Lord will move you to a different plan for your situation. But maybe he won’t. Our responsibility (and joy!) is to trust Him either way. Search your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal ways that you are grumbling instead of trusting.
What are my words?
Philippians 2:14-16 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…”
We are called to do all things without grumbling or disputing so that we may be blameless and innocent. When we complain, we are not living true or speaking consistent with who we really are (children of God!). This can be really hard, especially in the trenches of ministry.
What happens when we’re anxious or even angry about how a church situation has played out? Our words reveal our Father. If you endure the difficulties of ministry with faith rather than a complaining, you display the reality of your lineage – a child of God. Children of God trust that their Father has not left them. This confidence shows up when they talk.
It might look like saying, “Okay, Lord, this city isn’t my first choice for where to raise my kids, but we believe that you have led us here. I trust you.” Or perhaps, “This church is really unhealthy, but I’m going to support my husband and point him to the cross throughout these hard times.” You may be in a situation where you’ve been hurt by other Christians. When we speak from Phil. 2, we say, “This is working for my good. I want to grow in faith through this pain. I don’t want to lash out or complain. I want to meet God!”
It’s the crooked and twisted generation that stoops to grumbling and disputing. “Crooked” and “twisted” are really strong words! If we are in Christ, it shows up in how we speak when we suffer. In fact, we speak in light of other realities. We shine as ‘lights in the world’ (Philippians 2:15) and hold fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:16), which counteracts our impulses to grumble and dispute.
Where is my heart?
Grumbling is a heart problem (Exodus 16:7-8; James 5:8). It begins with a heart that is not fat and full with the gospel. Grumbling deflates the heart. It’s destructive to the soul – our own and also whoever is listening. Grumbling tips people in the wrong direction and encourages them to grumble as they observe our behavior.
Hearts that are dependent on the gospel swell with contentment and thankfulness. These are inward realities that bubble up in outward behavior (Colossians 3:15-17).
Sisters, are you a grumbler? Or do you have a content heart that is fat and full with the gospel? Sure, ministry often hands us troublesome situations. But grace helps us to take those hardships to the Lord in prayer. And it’s in that precious place of dependence that we are reminded that He is indeed working all situations for good.